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[This post is about the Bromsgrove Digital Shoebox project - bds]
I’m thinking about the scope of media/content/stuff. It’s a balancing act, working out where to draw the lines – what should be included, what should be outside the remit of the project.
It doesn’t actually matter that these lines are arbitrary and flexible, but at this stage, when the main focus is on explaining what I’m doing, in order to help people decide whether to fund more work, it helps if it’s clear enough for them to quickly understand the basics. On the other hand, I don’t want to dictate this too tightly, too early, I want your input.
So what’s in?
- I’ve talked about photos, film and audio; scans of documents might be interesting if they’re not available elsewhere.
- I’ve set the timeframe to be the 1970s and by that I suppose I meant 1970-1979 inclusive. I’m not deeply attached to this, and I wouldn’t want to exclude interesting material from say 1981. I think it’s something that can become firmer when we really know what is out there.
- The media should have been produced in Bromsgrove or include people who lived in Bromsgrove at the time (let’s not exclude those pics of school trips to France!). If it’s in Bromsgrove, then the media might not include people, it might just be places, buildings, roads, railways etc. I think using the boundary of Bromsgrove District Council is appropriate.
- I’m also most interested in media made by “ordinary people” rather than press or TV coverage (if only to avoid rights conversations with a bureaucracy) but I wouldn’t want to exclude them altogether.
Any thoughts on other dimensions to the scope?
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I got an e-mail today saying:
“I am part of the web development team for XXXX where we are constantly trying to improve the http://www.XXXXX.com site’s user experience. Part of this improvement involves meeting our users’ expectations when they are referred to XXXXX.com from other websites. To achieve this we are trying to ensure that all inbound links to our site point to a page that is relevant and useful to the visitor and that the link has anchor text that accurately describes the page it is linking to.
On this page of your site http://perfectpath.co.uk/XXXX you have a link to XXXXX.com. To help us improve the usability of our site it would be greatly appreciated if you could change the link so that it has the following anchor text and links to the following page.”
This is my blog. If you don’t understand that as an answer, then you’re not qualified to be in any web development team imho.
There are two parts to it:
1. My – I write it and keep it tidy. I write whenever and whatever I like. I update things if I think there’s some value in doing so. I don’t work for you just because I linked to your site. Content on my site doesn’t get updated just because you decide to reorganise your site. If you break your own links or are engaging in some SEO shenanigans, it’s really not my problem.
2. Blog – the web is not an extension of your content management system, it’s a place where I write on the internet, for myself and for people I know. I didn’t link to you for your benefit, I linked to you because I thought it might be useful to my readers at that time. I’m highly dubious that anyone will look at that post very much, the value to people who read this blog has deteriorated over time anyway. Yes there are interesting things in my archives, but my post linking to you isn’t one of them, it was just a “Here’s what I did today” post.
I can’t say much more without going into details that would reveal who the e-mail came from. Gah!
When I got this, 25th October 2010 seemed a very very long time away. It was still a massive novelty to be saying 2000-and-something and being in the noughties, let alone considering the second decade of the 21st Century.
I can’t remember why I renewed it when I did. But I’m guessing that it was something to do with my then impending 10th wedding anniversary (yes folks, in a couple of weeks it’ll be 20 years since I got married!) – I think we went to Paris for the day. I certainly had no idea at that point, what the next 10 years would hold: that I’d no longer be married, that I’d be self-unemployed for the majority of the time, that I’d have lost about 80lbs in weight, I’d have grown a beard and that we’d have a Tory-ish government again by now.
Or that popping over to Paris would have become so ordinary for me. I mean, I’m not over there every weekend, but every time I go, it feels more like a commuter trip than the big expedition it once was.
I’ll be in Paris at the beginning of December again for LeWeb (I’m an official blogger again – proper post about that coming up soon) and although I’m excited about being there, my focus for adventure is on gadding about the UK and then zipping across the USA – kinda beyond the wildest dreams of Lloyd Davis, aged 35, Information Manager for the Best Value Inspection Service at the Audit Commission, married for 10 years, two children, comfy home in Surrey…
Mind you, that Lloyd may have winced at the price of a passport renewal, but he knew where the money was coming from and he knew he’d have it in time for the trip. Excitement and adventure do come at a price
This has been bothering me for a while but I only really understood it when I just used it (Life Lesson #348).
Facebook has a kind of retweeting function so if you see something that someone else has linked to and you want to share it, the person whose feed you saw it in gets some automatic credit. Good.
I’ve only seen it so far in other people’s streams as Monkey McNutz via Chicken Crazoffsky: OMG this video makes me pee in my pants!
When both parties are a friend of mine then it can be confusing (if you don’t know the form). Who saw it first? Who’s refacebooking whom?
Then I saw it a few times where Monkey McNutz was clearly retweeting people who aren’t in my friends list people I’ve never heard of like Duckface Dibble.
So here’s the problem: I read “Monkey McNutz via Chicken Crazoffsky: OMG! ” as “Monkey says, by way of Chicken … OMG etc.” which doesn’t really make sense. It’s like Monkey is using Chicken as a ventriloquists dummy – whereas actually it’s the other way round. This message is coming to you from Chicken via Monkey (cos you might not know Chicken at all)
I think it’s something about the placement of the via clause – if it were at the end of the link (or whatever is being shared) then it would make sense, because it’s more obviously an attribution – but having it in the Name field drives me McNutz.
See? You don’t see, do you, it’s just me, isn’t it…? sorry.
I was prompted to write about this by a twitter exchange this morning. Sophia Looney from Lambeth Council was wondering about getting some help around data visualisation for reporting. “Heh” I chuckled to myself, “you mean the kind of thing the Audit Commission used to do so well before it let its brightest creative minds drift away…?”
But bitter cynicism aside, the question is: where are the data viz people who might be willing to contribute to something like this? How could the offer be made more attractive? Who’s already doing something or something closely related? I’m out of the loop on so much of this – my instincts are to ask Emma Mulqueeny, Thayer Prime, Paul Clarke, Dominic Campbell, Robert Brook.
My (probably ignorant, please put me straight) prejudice is that there are specialists giving time to being clever in the storage layer and the analysis layer, but they are having to act as talented amateurs in the presentation layer and that the whole thing is being led from a technical point of view. I hope this isn’t true any more and I’m just out of date, but I think there’s more value to be found in working out what stories local and central government want to tell and then seeing how they can be told with interesting combinations of open data. Regardless of the technology invoived, what is the story you want to tell and how can it be supported by data?
It may be that there’s a project to run at #C4CC on this – bringing together council performance & policy people with Higher Ed data viz folk like this chap and the open data crowd. I’m happy to facilitate something, let me know.
More generally, it got me thinking about how to articulate what I think is important to remember about crowdsourcing and getting people to do stuff… for free.
There’s a common theme in articles about the web: “There are people out there, doing stuff… for free!” Now, mostly this is in the context of someone writing or producing a mainstream media piece that’s actually saying “There are people out there doing what I trained for years to do and get paid moderately well for, but they do it for free – how long will it be before the people who pay me decide they can get a better deal elsewhere?” or for the less self-aware “Ha ha! Look at those suckers! They do all this, for nothing!”
I’ve seen many, many conference presentations, pointing to crowdsourcing such as Wikipedia and saying “Look, there are people out there doing stuff… for free! Maybe you could do something like this, and massively reduce your costs” Well, maybe, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.
I want to add that we don’t know much really about how the social and economic dynamics of the web work. It’s still relatively new and even those of us who’ve been immersed in it for more than 10 years would be wise to acknowledge from time to time that it’s a vastly complex and always evolving subject. So when you hear anyone say “this is the way the web works” take it with a pinch of salt and substitute with “this is a way that I think the web works”
So this is my favourite theory about crowdsourcing. It’s not about complete selflessness, the people who contribute are not just giving stuff away, they are building something together. They’re making stone soup. To put it in more economic terms it’s the demand-side supplying itself (I first heard this from Doc Searls at LesBlogs in 2005) Why do they do it?
Because, when you want something done and when you have a way of connecting with a very large and diverse group of people it’s far easier and quicker to do it yourselves than it is to wait for a corporation or government to do it for you.
Key phrase: “when you want something done”. If I want something done, and I think I have something to offer, and I think it’s interesting, and I think there are enough other people who are going to contribute similarly, and I think our joint effort is safe from short-sighted people who might exploit it, then I might chuck something in the pot. A lot of ifs in that sentence.
The other bit that often gets ignored is that it does cost something. It’s tempting to think that it all comes for free, because the contributors are giving of themselves freely. Again, not quite. Yes, it costs massively less, but someone has to pay for whatever infrastructure is required for the job. They may be small costs and a long way away, but they are there.
What’s all this about then? Well it’s becoming clear to me that there are two things that I need to do that I’m not doing enough of. First is that I should be writing more publicly about what I’m doing and how. But also that the connections between seemingly different bits need to be articulated too.
Wait. There’s something else we need to sort out first. This isn’t about me. I mean obviously it all is but that’s not because I think what I’m doing or thinking is particularly important or even interesting but because it’s the material that’s closest to hand.
I am interested in how stories get told on the internet and the rest of the world, and how storylines can move between the two. How narratives can carry over from blogs to films to games to comic-strips to conversations down the pub to a picture on the wall. That’s what transmedia storytelling is to me. Many definitions of transmedia include the word “fictional”. I think it’s valuable to operate at a higher level of abstraction and include elements that might be fictional or might be factual or maybe predominantly factual but include elements that are wholly and explicitly subjective interpretations of the “facts”.
And social art field trips like Tuttle2Texas are non-fictional transmedia experiences. And I know that it’s sometimes difficult to explain or understand what they’re for. They’re not *for* anything. They’re not a means to an end. They are deliberately at such a level of abstraction that their primary purpose is to help illustrate how stories (fictional or otherwise) might be co-created and told, because we don’t know that well enough yet – and if we operate only at lower levels of abstraction it’s much harder to learn what works and to transfer that learning between domains of interest.
So what I’m trying to here before my brain explodes is to shift up yet another level and say OK, if you take #tuttle as an element and #tuttle2texas as an element and that consulting work we did last year as an element, how do they all fit together?
Not “How can we find the common thread so that we can present a coherent marketing pitch?” But rather, given that this stuff is as coherent and congruent as anything else, what connections need to be articulated to help you suspend your disbelief? What needs to be explained? How wide and empty can the gutter be? What might I fill the gutter up with to help you across? What backstory is useful that helps you get to the beginning. And what is the beginning? Where do you start? Because when you’re telling this kind of a story, each element may have a beginning, middle and an end, but the great thing about having near infinite capacity to co-create and store stuff is that we can stretch the story out as long as our patience and interest and attention can last.
And if we can work it out at this level (and I’ll only do that by doing it) then perhaps there are valuable lessons that are more generally applicable.
I was struck by a piece by Scott Walker a few weeks ago on the use of the gutter in comic-strips and relating it to transmedia storytelling. I identified with it immediately because I know that the space you leave between the things you articulate are hugely fertile places – our minds are great at filling in the gap between A and B. Storytellers have exploited this by setting the audience up with a series of scenes that lead you to a certain conclusion and then revealing something that was left out that turns the plot around completely. In great detective novels for example the truth becomes clear when we find out exactly what happened between B and C rather than what we’d taken for granted and therefore Y to Z makes perfect sense.
I’ve applied this to Tuttle. When we started I made up some simple boundary conditions that I wanted to hold and I reinforced them over time: minimal structure; no-one grabs attention; regular meetings; as free at the point of access as possible; it isn’t for everyone but it is for anyone, etc. and theen I let you all make up the “rules” or ways to behave that make sense to you. I think this is the best way to make co-creation work.
And with Tuttle it still works: it leads to conversation that draws out and articulates what we can agree on – just such a conversation happened this week about moving Friday mornings to another location, out of which came the insight that maybe Tuttle needs a social space to feel comfortable in. We’ll keep this conversation going. It isn’t finished – that’s because the gutters are fractal – everytime you fill the gap between A and B with X you actually create two new narrower ones A-X and X-B and so we continue on.
So my favourite advice to people thinking about co-creation is “Pay as much attention to the gaps you leave as to the structure you build”
But this brings to light an error in how I’ve unconsciously applied this to everything I do, particularly in the narrative I create about myself when marketing the things I do. I realise that it’s not obvious how Tuttle arose out of my previous work, nor how Tuttle the meetup relates either to Tuttle Consulting nor to Tuttle2Texas – it’s clear perhaps that I’m involved, but how are they Tuttle things – and what’s all this art stuff about?
So there’s more to say on each of those than fits in a Monday morning blogging session. However, I offer the following observations relating to keeping wide gutters between things:
1. Some (maybe lots of) people just give up trying to work it out, it’s too hard – this means they give up on the story altogether.
2. People make up the stuff based on their own experience and that can have positive and negative consequences for someone trying to maintain a narrative.
3. People vary in their ability to give up a bridging idea that they’ve constructed, but most hold on pretty tight.
PS I recognise that I might not have completely recovered from this – ie I’m leaving holes that might be too big for you to traverse right now. Sorry, one blog post at a time
PPS there may be some more clues in my soon-to-be-launched newsletter – sign up here